What is a Green Startup and why this is important

Mar 11, 2021 | Sustainable business

What is a Green Startup? Our definition of a Green Startup is:

A green (startup) business is an organisation that offers products and services in a way that contributes to building a sustainable world. A sustainable world is a world in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Therefore, we also call a green business a sustainable business.


Why sustainable (startup) businesses are important

Humans are inherently focused on individual short-term benefits, rather than long-term collective benefits. Just like all of our current characteristics, this was once good for our survival as a species. However, in today’s world we have become too good in maximising our short-term benefits with the help of technology. This has brought us good things like less poverty, more education and a longer life expectancy. But at the same time we have lost sight of the extent of our influences on the world we live in. For some time, we did not have knowledge about how this would come back to us on the long-term. Even now that we know a lot more about the negative externalities of our actions, we still mainly choose our own short-term benefits while compromising the ability of other nations and generations to meet their needs.

As a very complex species we have developed a very complex system that is resistant to change. Our current economy and culture incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change. Businesses are the best example of how we have been focusing on short-term profits at the cost of everything else. This is not strange because today’s business world is built within today’s economy. In the current economy, the success of a business (or a whole country) is measured to its economic growth. The limits of our current economy are well described by the following quote by Kenneth Boulding:

“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”


With prospects of a rising global population, accelerating global development and associated increasing resource use and environmental impact, it seems increasingly apparent that business as usual is not an option for a sustainable future. The world is currently using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support human activities – an unsustainable rate even at today’s level of consumption. Despite the awareness of the need to value ecological systems and natural capital required for human welfare, it is not yet common practice in business to value the often ‘free’ natural assets. A holistic approach is required to tackle the challenges of a sustainable future: responses to environmental changes will necessarily need to be in parallel with economic and social change.

That is why to be sustainable as a business means that you’re not only economically sustainable, but also take into account social and environmental sustainability. Just focusing on economical sustainability will not work in the long term because a business also needs people (social) and resources (environmental). Exploiting people and or the environment therefore means that the business itself deprives itself from its future. Therefore, economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability are the three pillars of a sustainable business.

When you’re a (future) business owner you want to create something; a product, service, or community. You are forming an idea in your mind of what this concept should look like. We would like to inspire you in this process because when creating something, you have the chance to do this differently from what has been done before. This is important because the way in which human activities have been using, and using up, the planet’s resources cannot continue unchecked. We are forcing the earth to exceed its boundaries and to evolve into a version that will not be inhabitable for humans anymore. We must change to create a sustainable world in which humanity will be able to continue to live.  Sustainable businesses can play a big part in this.

Research has shown that consumption is by far the strongest determinant and the strongest accelerator of increases of global environmental and social impacts. Businesses have a huge impact on our consumption patterns and are able to greatly impact change in our consumption patterns. We have the knowledge and technology to change the way we consume without influencing our life satisfaction. In a sustainable world, we will not have to give up on life satisfaction. We do have to distribute life satisfaction better, between nations and between generations.

We need (new) businesses to use their impact to build a sustainable world together. As a (future) business owner you have the ability to contribute, even if your impact is small. The Green Startup Blog aims to provide you with the knowledge on how to contribute to a sustainable world while building a successful business. Coming articles will cover more information on sustainability, environmental problems, how to make your business more environment-friendly, creating a sustainable business model, examples of sustainable businesses, etc. Stay up-to-date by subscribing below.


Reference: Wiedmann, T., Lenzen, M., Keyßer, L. T., & Steinberger, J. K. (2020). Scientists’ warning on affluence. Nature communications, 11(1), 1-10.

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